Italians changed behavior and spent more time on WiFi before quarantine extensions

From March 10, following a sharp rise in novel coronavirus cases (COVID-19), the Italian government placed the country’s 60 million residents on lockdown. The government extended restrictions and told Italians to stay home and avoid all non-essential travel. The significant measures include blanket travel restrictions, a ban on all public events, the closures of schools and public spaces such as cinemas, and the suspension of religious services including funerals or weddings.

Opensignal’s data shows that Italians started changing their behaviour in many northern provinces during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak before the government imposed restrictions in many of those regions. Opensignal observed an increase in the time smartphone users spent connected to Wifi across several provinces. People typically spend more time connected to Wifi at weekends and during public holidays because Wifi is often used at home. By the end of February, our data indicated that people were spending significantly more time indoors. 

Opensignal analyzed the average time users spent connected to Wifi in each Italian province across the working week (Monday to Friday) in February. We observed that users spent considerably varying amounts of time connected to Wifi in different parts of Italy, ranging from less than 30% in provinces like Piacenza and Vercelli to more than 52% in the province of Naples.

In the first three weeks of February we saw no statistically significant changes in the time our users connected to Wifi across any Italian province during weekdays. However, on the fourth week, starting February 24th, we observed a considerable increase in the time our users spent connected to Wifi networks in 23 Italian provinces, clustered in the Northern regions.

On February 22nd, 11 Italian towns had been put under lockdown following the rise in coronavirus cases: 10 towns in the province of Lodi, centred around the town of Codogno, alongside the town of Vò in the province of Padua. But we saw changes in consumer behaviour across many more areas of Italy than just those 11 towns.

Our users in the province of Lodi, where most of the quarantined towns were located, connected 31.9% more time to Wifi in the last week of February compared to the previous week. Our users in the adjacent province of Piacenza also spent 36.9% more time on Wifi compared to the third week of February. We also observed increases between 20% and 30% in Pesaro and Urbino, Milan, Cremona, Parma, Monza and Brianza, and Bergamo. In all other provinces where we observed a change, except Turin and Treviso, our users spent between 10% and 20% more time on Wifi in the last week of February compared to the previous one. The province of Turin showed the smallest increase with our users there spending only 9.6% more time on Wifi networks.

Opensignal data shows that Italian smartphone users spent considerably more time indoors connected to Wifi in several provinces in the last week of February, when the lockdown areas were still limited to just 11 towns. This suggests that many people started changing their behaviour before the travel restrictions were extended to the rest of the country.